Would we feel comfortable with our children learning calculus from a teacher who has only mastered algebra? This is essentially what's happening in the state's ELL (English Language Learner) programs. While teachers possess ELL certification, they lack the necessary training and preparation. What's more, most of these educators aren't proficient in a second language. An increasing number of educators are working with learners who function in two or more languages in their home, school or community environment. In Oklahoma, 6 percent of students are classified as ELL. Nationwide, 79 percent of all ELL students speak Spanish as their first language. In Norman Public Schools, 73 languages are represented.
While the majority would argue that all students should become proficient in English, second-language learning is facilitated and expedited by fostering and using one's first language. If students aren't allowed to develop literacy in their first language, we can be assured they'll have difficulty developing literacy in English. For teachers, learning a second language wouldn't only give them a sense of empathy, but also many teaching strategies based on that learning experience.
Placing undereducated and underprepared teachers in classrooms to work with ESL (English as a second language) students doesn't serve the best interests of students, especially in a time when standardized testing and increased pressure on students to have mastery of many subjects prevails. The state's universities need to develop courses as part of the curricula for teacher preparation programs to meet the needs of this population.
Rebecca Borden, Norman